The flexibility to sample a variety of subject areas was one of the main reasons Ben O’Sullivan opted for combined commerce/law degree.
It was a refining strategy that worked and by the end of first year, Ben decided to let law go and focus on finance, accounting and economics.
‘I was also looking for a degree that could give me the opportunity to work for a variety of businesses, not-for-profit organisations and government departments. In second year I was able to do a range of subjects, giving me ample time to decide that I wanted to complete a major on economics with a particular focus on the data and analysis,’ he says.
It was a decision that led Ben to completing a commerce honours degree majoring in economics with outstanding success.
In addition to a Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award in 2015, Ben’s study accomplishments included a Deakin Honours Scholarship, recognition in the Dean’s Merit List for high academic performance, and an invitation to join Deakin’s Golden Key Society.
‘It was a great honour to receive these – and nice recognition and motivation for me to keep working hard and strive to achieve my goals. I received the Deakin Honours Scholarship in Trimester 2 2015 for the results throughout my undergraduate studies. It was a great reward for the hard work I put in my third year and allowed me to focus on my thesis,’ he says.
During his studies, Ben lived on-campus and says the smaller class sizes of Deakin’s Geelong-based campuses – along with the approachability of lecturers and tutors – was a major part of the drawcard for choosing Deakin.
‘Deakin has a great focus on student satisfaction and living on residence offered balanced independence and was a good transition to living away from home,’ he says.
He says the stand-out highlight from his degree was the second-year trimester he spent during at Bangor University in Wales, UK.
‘It was an amazing experience - it helped me mature and taught me a lot about communicating and connecting with people from different cultures and backgrounds,’ he recalls.
‘I think it’s really important to take opportunities, keep an open mind, and communicate with people from a variety of backgrounds – these are three important lessons I learnt during exchange that have held me in good stead for my career.’
Ben was also able to gain hands-on professional experience during his course by undertaking a two-week internship at Australian Unity Personal Financial Services.
‘I learnt how much easier it can be to learn new tasks when you work hard, pay attention and fully embrace any advice and feedback you receive. My employer/supervisor was also a great person with whom I could discuss potential jobs and careers,’ he says.
Now working as a data and analysis graduate at the Department of Social Services, Ben says the research, data analysis and presentation skills he developed through his degree – and particularly during his honours year – have been highly valuable.
‘Working for the department allows me to positively contribute to the lifetime wellbeing of some of the most vulnerable people in our community. The program will provide me with a range of relevant skills to help me progress through the public service.’
He says that ultimately, social policy assists the most vulnerable Australians as it provides a safety net and creates a more level playing field.
‘It allows people to pursue a career they are interested in – irrespective of their background. Data and analysis can play an important role in social policy as they allow for the development of evidence-based policy and can help determine the effectiveness of certain policies and programs.’
Ideally, Ben would like to take his career in a direction that ‘gives back’ to the community.
‘Whether this is in Australia or abroad, I would love to work my way up the ranks of the public service so I can play a significant role in the social policy advice that is given to government.’